Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Butcher Boy"

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I love sports, and am not half bad at some of them.
Casey Stengel, a fine out-fielder, and a maanger of the the NYYanks and the NYMets had a language all his own, called "Stengelese."

"Butcher Boy" he would say to his hitters during batting practice.

Why
"butcher boy?"

He was referring to the downward smash of a meat cleaver.

Why the
"downward smash of a meat cleaver?"

Because, I believe, that creates "underspin" on the ball, creating a "partial vacuum," which nature abhors. That makes the ball travel further

Q.E.D.

(What exactly does that mean?)

Ben


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben, I don't think the Butcher Boy play makes the ball go any faster. The purpose of the play is to fake out the infielders. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the Butcher Boy:

"The butcher boy is a baseball play in which a hitter squares up to bunt as the pitcher winds up, but then quickly pulls the bat back and takes a quick swing. The goal of the play is generally to draw one of the corner infielders in close to home plate as if to field a bunt and then pull the ball past the fielder. The play is generally only tried in situations in which a sacrifice bunt is expected - often with the pitcher up to hit in National League games and a runner on base."

November 18, 2006  
Blogger James Aach said...

As both an engineer and a baseball fan (and baseball history buff, so the wacky Casey Stengel is no stranger to me), I've been mulling over your explanation for a baseball travelling farther with underspin.

I went and pulled out my copy of The Physics of Baseball and found that underspin will cause a ball to go a bit further in the air. You might be able to describe it as a partial vacuum effect, but I think there's a better way to think about it....

First, think of an airplane traveling down the runway and about to take off. The plane is going parallel to the ground, and the air is passing by it in the opposite direction, also parallel to the ground. The air is trying to get the plane to slow down through friction (drag). Yet at some point, forces caused by this same air flow result in the plane wings pushing the plane UP (perpendicular to the ground and the direction of the plane's travel). The reason is the air flow on the top of the wing has a different speed and other characteristics than the air flow on the bottom of the wing. If you match these up right, you get "lift".

The spin on a baseball does roughly the same thing as a plane wing (to a smaller degree). Think of a ball with underspin or backspin, like a "rising fastball". The ball is thrown at 100 mph and it is spinning at 30 mph at its surface. From the point of view of the baseball's surface, the air passing above the ball is going 130 miles an hour (throwing speed plus surface spinning speed) and the air below is going 70 miles per hour. The drag forces the air is placing on the ball will be different near the top than they are near the bottom. The net effect is a bit like a plane wing - a force pushing the ball UP, perpendicular to its path toward the batter. The effect isn't huge, but it does take gravity a little longer to pull the ball down to earth. If it's a pitch, it appears to "hop". If it's a batted ball in the air, it travels a bit further.

Turn the ball on it's side and reverse the spin, and you've got a flat curveball.

Another topic: I assume by now you've been shipped a preview copy of my book "Rad Decision: and it's resting comfortably at the bottom of your reading pile. If not, just let me know. Thanks.

James Aach

December 06, 2006  

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